Dantonio vs John L: Recruiting

Jonathan Daniel

(Ed: Bump. Good graphics. For comparison's sake, John L. went 22-26 in his four years (one bowl), while Dantonio went 33-19 (four bowls). Also, as is pointed out, MSU's recruiting has expanded in the past few years. -- Chris)

Let’s face it, even with a disappointing 7-6 season last year Mark Dantonio is building up a solid football program at Michigan State. We used to be a consistent low tier Big Ten football team under the guidance of Bobby Williams and John L Smith. Those days are over thankfully but I wanted to take a look back at the John L years and compare his recruiting tactics to our current football coach.

John L Smith was born in Idaho and spent most of his coaching career out west. He then went to Louisville and put together 41-21 record over 5 seasons. Then Michigan State thought he could do the same thing at MSU and hired him. (Slap!)

Mark Dantonio on the other hand was raised and coached in the Midwest, specifically in Ohio so he has strong Midwestern ties.

What made Mark Dantonio a better coach than John L? I wanted to look at their recruiting tactics to see if the answer was recruiting. To compare the two coaches I only took into account Dantonio’s first 4 years of coaching since John L only was here for 4 years. All the data I collected came from rivals. com.

The first thing I looked for was what states the coaches recruited from. Here’s Dantonio’s chart. The number inside the states is the total number of players each coach signed from that state. : Dantonio_chart_medium

and here is John L’s:


The states in red are states that John L smith signed a player from that Dantonio didn’t. As we can see John L smith was a more of a national recruiter than Dantonio was. In the same amount of time Dantonio signed almost twice as many kids from Michigan than John L did. John L brought in a lot of players from talent rich states of Florida and California that Dantonio didn’t even touch. Most of the kids from California were junior college players; Dantonio doesn’t put a big emphasis on junior college recruiting.

As far as the talent of the recruits goes here is the breakdown:


As we can see according to Dantonio and John L brought in the same amount of talent. The majority of their recruits were solid 3 stars. Dantonio was able to pull a few more 4 stars to East Lansing and of course the coveted 5 star Will Gholston.

So if Dantonio and John L brought in the same amount of talent what makes Coach Dantonio such a better coach in East Lansing? I think it has a lot to do with their recruiting tactics. Michigan State is surrounded by traditional football powerhouses of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. John L tried to get out of their territory and recruit in the fertile grounds out east, south, and west in California. John L Smith brought in a lot of junior college talent that were mostly all developed and only had a few years of eligibility left. Dantonio on the other hand focused on the Midwest and took a lot of players that the three football powerhouses over looked. He redshirts most of his recruits and develops them over time. This system definitely works better at Michigan State and it shows in the wins loss column.

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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